Lawsuit: EPA’s ‘Independent’ Science Advisers Got $190 Million In Agency Grants

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

A free market legal group is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allegedly stacking a scientific advisory panel on air pollution with researchers who had received more than $190 million in grants from the agency.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI) is suing EPA on behalf of the Western States Trucking Association and Dr. James Enstrom, a retired University of California-Los Angeles epidemiologist who was blacklisted for challenging EPA claims about particulate matter.

“The EPA has stacked the panel, which is required by law to be independent and unbiased, with researchers who have received over $190 million in discretionary grants from the EPA,” said Steve Milloy, an attorney with EELI, in a statement.

“This clearly violates the law and makes a mockery of the notion of ‘independent’ scientific review,” he said.

The EPA relies on a panel of scientific advisers, called the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, to validate the science underlying key clean air regulations pushed by the agency. In this case, EELI is asking the court to prevent the EPA from convening a panel tasked with reviewing the science behind agency regulations on fine particulate matter, or PM2.5.

EELI believes the agency has stacked the panel with researchers who will rubber stamp EPA rules regulating PM2.5. EPA also relies on claimed PM2.5 reductions for the majority of health benefits in some of its largest regulations on power plants.

Some 24 of the 26 members of EPA’s PM2.5 panel have gotten or are the current recipients of EPA grants. In total, panel members have gotten more than $190 million from the agency, according to EELI. Milloy says this violates the federal laws requiring such scientific advisory panels be “independent.”

EELI isn’t alone in pointing out potential problems with using scientific advisers financially reliant on EPA. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Republican Sen. [crscore]Jim Inhofe[/crscore] sent a letter to the EPA, criticizing the agency for selecting advisers who benefit from federal largesse.

In 2014, Texas Republican Rep. [crscore]Lamar Smith[/crscore] pointed out that many science panel members were often peer-reviewing regulations based on their own research, corroding the integrity of the peer-review process.

“Not only does the EPA pay researchers to produce controversial research that advances its PM2.5 regulatory agenda, but the agency pays the very same researchers to review their own controversial work,” said Milloy, who also runs the blog JunkScience.com and has been involved in the PM2.5 debate for years.

EPA began regulating PM2.5 in in the early 1990s, and today says there’s no safe level of exposure to the air pollutant. PM2.5 is a “mixture of harmful solid and liquid particles” that is 2.5 microns or less, or “1/30th the thickness of a human hair.” These small particles can get into people’s respiratory system and can harm human health and even lead to death after just short-term exposure, according to EPA.

In 2011, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress that PM2.5 “causes premature death.”

“It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should,” she said. “If we could reduce particulate matter to healthy levels it would have the same impact as finding a cure for cancer in our country.”

The EPA set PM2.5 primary standards at 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air on an annual average basis. Despite the strong warnings, EPA has tested PM2.5 on humans. EPA exposed dozens of human test subjects to PM levels of 600 micrograms per cubic meter — 40 times what the EPA sets as an acceptable outdoor air standard.

EPA not only testes PM2.5 on humans, they also did not fully disclose the risks of death from PM2.5 exposure — a reversal from public warnings about exposure to the pollutant.

EELI points out EPA uses supposed monetary benefits from PM2.5 reductions as the main justification for massive regulations on power plants, including the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Mercury Air Transport Standard and Clean Power Plan.

“The EPA process for commissioning and evaluating PM2.5 research has been so rigged and so biased for so long that many scientists don’t even try to get nominated for CASAC panels any more,” Milloy said. “

“We will review and respond to the lawsuit,” an EPA spokeswoman told the Daily Caller New Foundation.

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Tags : clean air scientific advisory committee clean power plan energy energy and environment legal institute environmental protection agency jim inhofe lamar smith lisa jackson steve milloy
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